Archives for category: Central government

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21st, 12noon – 2pm:

‘Reclaim the BBC’ protest vigil outside the Mailbox, Birmingham as a West Midlands Extinction Rebellion action to draw attention to the urgency of need for action on climate change.

Climate campaigners are calling on the BBC to declare a climate emergency and make the issue its top editorial priority.

Richard Bruce draws our attention to the truly remarkable the Swedish youngster in the video link below, adding that her message should be widely heard around the world! He comments’ “There is hope yet – if only those in positions of influence would listen and stop depending on the dishonest corporate science…. Brave girl…” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzeekxtyFOY&frags=pl%2Cwn

The Guardian reports that climate campaigners Extinction Rebellion (XR) came to prominence last month when they organised the largest civil disobedience protest seen in the UK for decades, culminating in the occupation and closure of five bridges in central London. The group launched at the end of October with a blockade of Parliament Square in London. Since then it has grown rapidly and XR branches have sprung up in more than 35 countries.

The rapid spread of XR comes as frustration rises with policymakers who are failing to slow perilous levels of global warming and biodiversity loss. There have been a flurry of reports on the scale of the climate crisis , including one from the UN which said there were only 12 years left to limit some of the most devastating impacts. Several cities in the UK, including London, have now declared a climate emergency.

XR is calling on the government to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 and establish a “citizens assembly” to devise an emergency plan of action, similar to that seen during the second world war.

This month 100 prominent figures including the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the authors Philip Pullman and Naomi Klein backed XR: “We must collectively do whatever’s necessary non-violently, to persuade politicians and business leaders to relinquish their complacency and denial,” their open letter stated.

During a second wave of civil disobedience this weekend, thousands of people staged peaceful direct action protests in towns and cities around the UK.

The latest XR group to set up internationally was in New York, where activists announced plans at their first meeting this weekend for a US national day of action on 26 January. The group is planning an international week of rebellion in April.

 

 

 

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Community Energy Birmingham  co-operatives offer shares in order to fund the installation of solar photovoltaic arrays on community buildings in Moseley and Small Heath, Birmingham – see a 2015 post. 

Community Energy Birmingham (CEB) has some exciting news!

“We’re looking to grow our existing portfolio of renewable energy generation on community energy buildings in Birmingham, and have just launched a new share offer in November 2018. Our plan is to put a large solar roof (163 panels) on the housing association building in the centre of Castle Vale. This will be our largest solar roof to date, with a peak capacity of 50 kW. The total investment opportunity is around £44,000. We have already raised several thousand pounds”.

CEB aims to do this before the Feed in Tariff scheme closes in early 2019. CEB has already installed 6 solar PV on roofs belonging to community buildings where the organisations receive the benefit of clean and reduced cost electricity.

One example of its work is the installation of another 10 kilowatts of solar panels on the main roof of the Moseley Exchange building, joining the 8.5 kw on the sloping roof to the rear. The new panels cannot be seen, since they lie flat behind the parapet of this historic old Post Office building in the centre of Moseley. Since the building is in use almost every day, the solar energy will be consumed within the building, which is used by many Moseley community groups.

CEB ethical investors have been paid 4% this year on their shares 

Shares are from £250 to £10,000. CEB prefers investment from people living in or near Birmingham.  The new Share offer closes on 31 Dec 2018, but they would love to hear right away if you want to know more.

Email enquiry@communityenergybirmingham.coop

Full details are available in their Share Offer document and for those seeking shares, an Application Form may be filled out and returned.

 

 

 

 

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The Chancellor of the Exchequer recently announced that Warwick Manufacturing Group (University of Warwick) has been awarded £100m in Government funding for WMG’s work in the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

It forms part of a £780 million announcement of which £270.9 million has been awarded to the West Midlands (to WMG and The Manufacturing Technology Centre, below) for their work in the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and the Energy Systems Catapult in Birmingham.


The WMG centre’s HVM Catapult focuses on Low Emission Mobility, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) and the supply chain. This is directly aligned to the Government’s ‘Road to Zero’ vision for the transport sector of zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion, underpinned by WMG’s digital manufacturing capability that drives improvement in productivity and competitiveness across sectors.

The Warwick press release reports that in their first five years the catapults have supported around 3,000 small businesses to develop and exploit new technologies. They operate more than £850m world-class facilities and are also training hundreds of apprentices and doctoral students. Last year 900 apprentices gained valuable practical experience with cutting-edge technologies used in modern manufacturing at HVM Catapult.

A more cautious account was given last November in The Register, by Andrew Orlowski. Citing a report by Ernst and Young’s Catapult Review Steering Group to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, he summarised some of its conclusions.


The catapult agencies (aka the government’s elite network of Catapult Centres), which are formally private sector “independent research and technology organisations”, hoover up public money via Innovate UK.

The UK government’s network of “Catapult” innovation and technology agencies fall under its R&D spending umbrella – show dubious value for money. Governance structures are unhelpful the report finds. Innovate UK – the operating name of the government’s Technology Strategy Board, is an arms’-length body that falls under the Department for Business. Innovate can’t sit on Catapult boards or recommend appointments because “There are private and public sector clashes e.g. when Catapults are asked to deliver for Government, report on performance, and comply with government accounting rules”.

Orlowski adds that the report suggests the manufacturing and biotech catapults have had a positive economic impact. But the others? Not so much. three of the seven catapults have been put in the Last Chance Saloon: the “Transport Systems”, “Future Cities” and “Digital”.

EY adds: “With the Catapult network’s overall lack of a clearly articulated set of objectives, or a framework for measuring impact, and the current level of operational performance, it is unlikely that the impact of the network overall has been significant so far. . . “

“The “Transport Systems”, “Future Cities” and “Digital” Catapults urgently need to draw up new plans to justify their existence: funding should be halted if they can’t “prove confidence” with a clear new plan”.

Dr Ian Campbell, Interim Executive Chair of Innovate UK, has a more positive view:

“In their first five years the catapults have supported around 3,000 small businesses to develop and exploit new technologies. They operate more than £850m world-class facilities and are also training hundreds of apprentices and doctoral students, such as at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult where in the last year 900 apprentices have gained invaluable practical experience with cutting-edge technologies used in modern manufacturing.”

 

 

 

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This Birmingham Socialist Discussion Group meeting has been called to discuss the state of the railway system in Britain today and the case for nationalisation.

7 pm Wednesday 24th October first floor room, the Wellington, 37 Bennetts Hill City Centre

The front pages of the mainstream press have recently described the chaos in the British railways. Right-wing newspapers who have always supported the privatisation of the railways are now reflecting the dramatic failures of this system.

The Times 20.9.18. “Rail failings exposed by chaos over timetables” In which it informed its readers that “Nobody took charge of May’s timetable overhaul leading to the cancellation of 800 services a day.”

The Daily Mail headline on the same day was “Off the Rails!”. It said “Passengers are routinely being failed and the timetable chaos highlighted systemic weakness, poor leadership and lack of accountability.”

Two railways Northern Rail and Govia Rail have particularly failed and according to the BBC, 200 out of Northern Rail’s 3800 services are not running and 310 out of Govia Rail’s 4700 are not functioning. Both have tried to break the resistance of RMT members opposing driver only trains.

Speakers

Ian Scott President Birmingham Trades Union Council

Pat Collins ex-member of the Executive Council RMT

Ian Scott will give a historical perspective, talking about the early history of the rail industry, the Beeching axing of a major part of the track in the 1960s and 1970s – vandalism mainly implemented by Labour governments. He will also relate the sorry story of the privatisation of the rail industry in the 1990s by the Major government with no attempt to reverse any of these changes by the new Blair government. He writes:

“One of the factors facing the railways & governments from the 1900’s to 1960’s was the failure to co-ordinate public transport services. Tramways & latterly ‘bus services in competition with railways left (mainly) branch lines in a state of decline pre war. The Second World War left Britain’s railways almost bankrupt with increasingly worn out rolling stock. Nationalisation saved them from collapse but only with loans from World Bank & taxpayers money to upgrade & modernise the rail system. Subsequent government policies (post 1948) led to one of cynical disinvestment, branches closed & unsurprisingly main lines suffered from loss of revenue. It was ideal for the Tory government of the 1950’s, whose minister Marples appointed Dr Beeching to carry out the deliberate destruction of the rail system to create the need for the motorcar.

The entry of Britain into the EU in 1974 led to many directives from the commission on our home-based industries & public services with its (EU) requirement to reduce public expenditures. The EU directive 91/440/EEC was for the breakup of a smaller (post Beeching) rail network, hence the situation we face today with a prospect of a Labour government taking back rail into public ownership 

Pat Collins, RMT local branch secretary will discuss the resistance of RMT members to the privatised rail companies. 

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To contact Birmingham Socialist Discussion Group, ring Pete 0780 9406973 or Stuart 0777 156 7496, ser14@btinternet.com    

 

 

 

West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 25th October 5-7 pm

Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH

A round table discussion

All welcome.

The Zero Waste Economy: Is it possible? 

Hazel Clawley shares with the group the main themes of Paul Connett’s book The Zero Waste Solution as an opening to a group discussion on reasons for the successes and failures of the international Zero Waste movement.

The aim is to steer the discussion away from the individualistic approach (what one dedicated ‘greenie’ can do to slim down her/his ‘residuals’ – the non-reusable, non-recyclable bin contents – admirable though these pioneers are), and towards ways in which whole communities are being drawn in to the ZW solution in some unlikely parts of the world e.g. Sicily.

A previous WMNEG session (by Jane Green) showed how the drive towards incineration in the West Midlands stymies the ZW approach here (as in so many places) – so is there any hope for a Zero Waste West Midlands? 

 

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire.

 

 

 

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Birmingham Against the Cuts

Open Planning Meeting on Wednesday 10 October at 7pm

at the Wellington, 37 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham B2 5SN

 

     Agenda 

  1. Attendance and apologies
  1. Notes of meeting of 19 September
  1. The campaign by BCC Home Care Workers in Unison against changes in contracts
  1. The campaign against the closure of 14 Council Day Nurseries
  1. The campaign against school funding cuts
  1. Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) update
  1. Library campaign update
  1. The local economy – including BCC’s ‘Municipal Socialism’ and ‘Local Wealth Building’ and the WMCA’s ‘Inclusive Growth’
  1. Local democracy – BCC’s plans for wards
  1. AOB
  1. Date and venue of next meeting

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PLEASE NOTE THAT AIDED DISABLED ACCESS TO OUR MEETINGS IN THE WELLINGTON CAN BE ARRANGED WITH ADVANCE NOTICE. PLEASE EMAIL RICHARD.HATCHER@BCU.AC.UK

 

See the Birmingham Against the Cuts website for regular news and analysis ahttps://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

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As the prime minister speaks about a personal mission to fix our broken housing system. a Bournville reader asks several probing questions, adding ‘only time will tell’.

See the video of the PM’s speech to the National Housing Federation here.

“Since my very first day in Downing Street, I have made it my personal mission to fix our broken housing system and making sure that vision becomes a reality. We are already making good progress. In 2016/17, more than 217,000 additional homes were added across England. That represents a 15% increase on the previous year”.

Our reader asks “and how many were social rented homes?”

Mrs May adds that eight housing associations have already been given long-term funding deals, worth almost £600 million, paving the way for about15,000 new affordable homes. But again our readers challenges that word “affordable”:

He comments: “Are these homes truly affordable? Does she include in that figure truly affordable social rented homes? Please expand Mrs May.”

The Chartered Institute of Housing’s deputy chief executive, Gavin Smart defines affordable homes as those with the lowest social rents. He said:

“It’s crucial that Government investment helps housing associations to build the right kind of homes at the right prices.

“In practice this means building more homes at the lowest social rents – which is often the only truly affordable option for people on lower incomes”.

Mrs May announced a £2 billion initiative. Under the scheme, housing associations will be able to apply for funding stretching as far ahead as 2028/29. But housing consultant Joe Halewood pointed out that £2bn for the period of 2022 to 2028 is far lower than the funding housing associations were receiving from the government until it was slashed by George Osborne in 2010 to just £450m a year.

Was the £2 billion initiative a boost – or a mere 20% of the 2010 Labour funding in 2010?

“This new funding is one quarter of that amount and at £333m per year is just 20% of the £1.68bn housing funding the Tories inherited from Labour in 2010!” he blogged.

“A certain stigma still clings to social housing” (Mrs May)

Indeed, as Joe Halewood adds: ever since the Conservatives’ 1980 Right to Buy of council houses made renting a second-class, non-aspirational cultural phenomenon and led UK housing policy for the last 38 years – a policy which our Bournville reader points out is not being jettisoned?

Mrs May is at last paying lip-service to the concept of a mixed-tenure development

In 2005 Zenna Atkins chair of Places for People, a housing association, pointed out that traditional ideas about social housing persist. So amny years ago she advocated creating places people want to live in, encourage mixed economic communities, and create more ways for people to step on to (and off) the homeownership ladder. We need to be flexible in how people are able to access and fund these homes. Admittedly, this requires a radical shift in thinking. We would need to no longer build social housing places, but build affordable homes for people who could choose how they paid for them. The property should not brand you. How you pay for your home should not be public knowledge. the social housing should not be tucked away behind the private homes and “As you look from building to building, house to house, you should not be able to tell simply by looking which homes are affordable and which were sold at the market rate”.

But, as yet, no undertaking has been made to end the phenomenon of the “servant’s entrance”. Our reader adds: “we need government action to ban “poor doors” on developments”

Multimillion pound housing developments are using separate entrances to segregate the low-income tenants from wealthy home buyers – termed “poor doors” in the United States. In the US where it began, there are also separate rubbish and bicycle storage spaces.

Viability assessment rules are enabling developers to renege on their affordable housing commitments. Our Bournville correspondent calls for action to stop such evasion

As a paper by Guildhall Chambers puts it, politely: “Most frequently, VAs are used to seek a reduction in the amount of affordable housing which a Local Planning Authority’s policy would otherwise require. The LPA’s policy might, for example, dictate that 40% of the residential units created by a new development are sold at below market rates to support the provision of affordable housing. If the developer can show that this would make the development economically unviable, it can argue for an exception and a corresponding reduction”.

The chair of the Local Government Association, Lord Porter reminds us: “The last time this country built homes at the scale that we need now was in the 1970s when councils built more than 40% of them. Councils were trusted to get on and build homes that their communities needed, and they delivered, and they can do so again”

He pointed out that councils are actually hamstrung by Treasury restrictions which prevent them from borrowing against their existing housing stock, continuing:

“Access to funding for housing associations to employ more brickies and less bureaucrats and build more affordable homes is positive but does not go far enough”.

“Homes for affordable and social rent are desperately needed across the country now, not in 2022, and the measures announced today fail to provide the funding certainty councils also need to play a leading role in solving our housing crisis.

“If our country is to get back to building the 300,000 homes a year we need, the Government needs to ensure all areas of the country can borrow to invest in building new affordable homes and the necessary infrastructure to go with them”.

 

 

 

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 West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 27th September 5-7 pm

Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH

Cllr Claire Spencer, Senior Policy Advisor – Public Services and Inclusive Growth, writes: We are using some of the models from Doughnut Economics to try and come up with a new way of judging the health of an economy. Currently, we take jobs, trade and GVA to be the measures, but that is giving us low pay, poor health and a highly problematic attitude to our human and environmental resources.

She recommends the Inclusive Growth Framework (iteration one) that went through WMCA Board on September 14th: “It’s early days, but the Board passed it, so it is a good indicator of trajectory, I hope”.

A round table discussion

All welcome. 

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire.

 

 

 

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Birmingham recently hosted world’s first zero emission vehicle summit where Chris Grayling, the transport secretary unveiled plans which related only to road traffic – despite a Birmingham university team pioneering the use of the hydrogen-fuelled barge, in a city blessed with a network of waterways.

The developers of Birmingham’s Icknield Port Loop – a joint venture involving Urban Splash, Places for People, the Canal & River Trust and Birmingham City Council – have today presented a site-wide masterplan showing family houses, apartments, business premises and leisure facilities. Birmingham Live reports that, following work on remediation and rebuilding of the canal walls started earlier this year, construction has started on the Icknield Port Loop scheme and the first homes are scheduled to be ready for occupation in Spring 2019 (artist’s impression above).

James Lazarus, Head of Property Development and of the joint venture at the Canal & River Trust, comments that more people will be encouraged to use the city’s canals and tow-paths to commute to and from work and travel to the city centre; he earlier wrote that C&RT is “aware of the potential to run a taxi service and provision is being made in the plans to facilitate this” (Email to CBOA chair, September 25, 2017).

Those attending the Recycling and Waste Management Exhibition at the NEC this week were given a CBOA presentation illustrated by series of slides showing the advantages of carrying materials and waste by water instead of road.

Will there be cleaner greener transport for Icknield Port materials, waste removal – and later for commuters?

 

 

 

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Near a Birmingham university team pioneering the use of hydrogen-fuelled barges and trains, in a city blessed with a network of waterways, Graeme Paton, the Times’ Transport Correspondent, reports that the government is hosting a meeting tomorrow to discuss ways of reducing traffic-related carbon emissions – ‘a world first summit’ (Business Birmingham).

Despite the existence of an All Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways and the use of water buses, taxis and ferries in so many towns and cities (details here) with London leading the way, Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, has unveiled plans which relate only to road traffic.

     Use barges for freight (CBOA graphic)

Birmingham’s only water bus

The Department for Transport suggestions:

  • a local authority ban on petrol and diesel cars from certain road lanes to promote the use of environmentally friendly vehicles
  • green cars with zero emissions could be allowed to drive in bus lanes.
  • introduce green number plates for electric and hydrogen cars, copying a system in place in Norway, Canada and China
  • spend £2 million to promote electric-powered “cargo bikes” for inner-city deliveries which have increased in recent years because of the surge in online shopping.

Inrix, the traffic data company, said this year that Britain had the worst congestion in western Europe: “Motorists are spending an average of 31 hours a year stuck in peak-time jams. Average vehicle speeds in central London are as low as 7.6 mph”.

Hydrogen fuelled barge: see University note and Guardian article

”One of the most energy efficient means of moving goods is by canal and the threat of global warming is resulting in a resurgence of interest in this means of transportation”: Professor Rex Harris, University of Birmingham.

 

 

 

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